Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011 West Woods

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. addressed the John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic at Keene, NH. Holmes, as is well noted, fought with the 20th Massachusetts in the West Woods. Below, as a Memorial Day tribute, are the first three paragraphs of his address.

"Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth--but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperilled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluable; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south--each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.

But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return."

Monday, May 23, 2011

"An erroneous account of the fight I had:" Early, Jackson, and Faulkner and the "Pious Fraud" in the West Woods

As reported on earlier posts, the Ezra Carman Papers at the Library of Congress, containers 15 and 16, include correspondence between Carman and participants of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.[1] The containers include replies to inquiries by Carman asking individuals to recall their whereabouts on these fields. In a number of instances, writers enclosed marked-up maps--some apparently sent by Carman; others hand drawn--marking positions and movements. One of Carman's earliest correspondents in this collection was Jubal A. Early who wrote to correct "an erroneous account of the fight I had"--the account was contained in the Official Report filed by MGen. Thomas J. Jackson.

On November 19, 1868 Early wrote Carman to correct "errors...which I have noticed" in Jackson's report dated April 23, 1863. Early tells Carman that Jackson's assistant adjutant, Lt. Col. Charles J. Faulkner,[2] drafted the report from "subordinate reports" supplied by Jackson which were "very vague and unintelligible." Early then lays out "very strong evidence" why he believes that Jackson never examined the report furnished by Faulkner which then became the official record of April 23.
Charles James Faulkner
Library of Congress Collection

Jackson was seriously wounded at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and died eight days later. On May 22, Lt. Joseph Graham Morrison, Aide-de-Camp to Jackson[3] wrote Lt. Col. Robert Hall Chilton, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General, Department of Northern Virginia--

"Colonel: On opening General Jackson's trunk in Lexington, Virginia, we found in it the accompanying report of the operations of his command, from the fifteenth of August to fifth September, 1862. Also an unfinished report embracing operations of his command from fifth of September to the end of the Maryland campaign. The unfinished report Lieutenant Smith, A.D.C., has. He intendeds give it to Colonel Faulkner to finish; it will then be forwarded. I am, Colonel, Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, J.E. Morrison, A.D.C. To Lieutenant-General Jackson."[4]

Early's assertion to Carman and Morrison's note to Chilton appears to suggest that Jackson's Official Report dated April 23, 1863 was not actually filed on that date since Morrison reports finding the unfinished report in Jackson's trunk. If so, it was probably not completed until sometime after May 22 (and after Jackson's death).

Early's official report, completed and filed on January 12, 1863, was as the late Joseph Harsh observed, "although not without minor faults, there is no finer, more accurate contemporary description of the morning's battle."[5]

Below is the full letter to Carman (and his allegations regarding Faulkner). To compare, see Early's official report at Brian Downey's excellent site, Antietam on the Web. Also see, Jubal Early's autobiography now published online at Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States.

Square brackets are my amendments to the document.


[Early begins with a transcription of Jackson's official report].

"'Early being now directed, in consequence of the disability of General Lawton, to take command of Ewell's division, returned with his brigade (with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment, which remained with General Stuart), to the piece of wood where he had left the other brigades of the division when he was separated from them. Here he found that the enemy had advanced his infantry near the wood, in which was the Dunkard Church, and had planted a battery across the turnpike near the edge of the woods and in open field, and that the brigades of Lawton, Hays, and Trimble, had fallen back some distance to the rear, etc.'

Then ensues an erroneous account of the fight I had. There is no explanation of where I had been, and this statement about my finding the enemy's infantry with a battery across the turnpike near the edge of the woods and the field, and my attacking them there, is entirely erroneous. I found neither artillery nor infantry at the point designated, but I rode across the Hagerstown pike at the very spot, to the rear of where Hood was then engaged on the east side of the pike, to find the other brigades of the division, and I found that they had left the field cut to pieces, and been replaced by Hood's division. I did not see or hear anything more of either of these brigades until after all the fighting on this part of the line was over. It was sometime after I returned to the woods, and after Hood had been compelled to fall back to the Dunkard Churrch, that the enemy advanced his infantry and artillery to the point indicated.

The facts were these.

Diagram 2: Map with Early's annotations
showing action in the West Woods. I will
post on Friday, higher resolution images
of these maps.
Library of Congress, Papers of Ezra A. Carman.
I had been sent very early in the morning to support some guns that Stuart had, beyond our extreme left, near the Potomac. A body of the enemy commenced moving between us and the rest of the Army, and we were compelled to move back by a circuitous route, nearer to the main line. We found a large force of the enemy on the west side of the pike moving up towards the northern or left end of the woods in which the Dunkard Church was located--that church being in the Southern or left end.

Just as I was taking position in the rear and of an elbow of the woods, running back from its left or Northern part, in order to confront a body of infantry seen in the fields in front, I received the message from General Jackson to return with my brigade and take command of the division.

On getting to the point where I had spent the night, I found that the enemy had penetrated the woods with his skirmishers at the Northern end, between the position I had just left and the pike, and I found Colonels Griggsby [6] and Stafford, who had rallied a part of Jackson's division, which had been entirely broken and forced back, skirmishing with the enemy's skirmishers in the woods, the latter being followed by heavy masses of infantry in the open fields beyond the woods on the West of the pike.

My brigade was at once advanced to the support of Griggsby and Stafford, until it came to  a low ledge or ridge running through the woods, nearly at right angles with the pike, which was here separated from the pike by a field or plateau higher than the woods.

Diagram 1: Early's movements "on the
extreme left." Higher resolution
image of this map will be posted on
Library of Congress, Papers of Ezra A. Carman.
The brigade was halted there in line and Griggsby's  and Stafford's men formed on the left of it. The line as there established was at right angles with the pike, and was so thrown back to protect our rear from the enemy's advancing columns. The latter were checked and I then rode across the pike in rear of the position thus opened, to find the other brigades, and ascertaining that they had been cut to pieces and gone to the rear, and seeing that Hood was very heavily pressed and his men giving way, I rode to see General Jackson on the heights in rear of and a little to the right of the Dunkard Church, where I informed him of the condition of things, and the necessity for reinforcements, and he promised to get and send them as soon as possible.

I then rode to my brigade, and found the enemy massing a very heavy force in the fields in its front, all on the west of the pike.

The enemy now commenced pressing into the woods, checked to some extent by my skirmishers. I sent Major Hale to General Jackson to inform him of the urgency of the case, and just as he returned with the assurance that aid should be sent immediately, the enemy's artillery and a heavy column of infantry appeared at the point designated in the above extract.

Hood having then fallen back I did not attack the enemy at that point, was was to the rear of my right flank, but held my position, throwing back my right a little, being concealed from the enemy, and hoping that the reinforcements would come in time to meet the fire while I confronted the other enemy up in my front.

The column in rear of my right, which proved to be Grant's [Greene's] division of Mansfield's corps, hurried around into the woods between me and the Dunkard Church, and then I filed to the rear by the right, and moved to over take it, concealed from its view by some ledges of rock, while Griggsby and Stafford fell back in line confronting the other force, which proved to be Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps supported by the rest of Mansfield's under Williams.

In getting up with Green's division I faced to the front, attacked it, and drove it out of the woods to the pike. Just then Barksdale's and Sumner's brigades of McLaw's division and Anderson's brigade of D.R. Jone's division came up, and we turned on Sedwick and the force supporting him, driving the whole in confusion out of the woods into the fields beyond, and clearing the west side of the pike for a long distance of the enemy.

In this movement Barksdale's brigade or the greater part of it went after Green's division, while Semmes' Anderson's, mine and Griggsby's and Stafford's men attacked the other force. When I made my report I thought Anderson's brigade belonged to McLaw's division and so stated, but it belonged to D.R. Jones.

Generals Walker and Ransom both state that they met parts of Hood's and my commands retiring before the enemy, and that they attacked the force following them. This statement so far as concerns my command arose from the fact that a part of Hays' brigade which had gone back joined Hood at the Dunkard Church and Hays was under my command next day.

I commanded nothing but my own brigade in the fight, and that did not fall back at all, except under my orders when Barksdale's brigade was coming up on its right as my brigade was pursuing Green, and I then drew it back to avoid Barksdale's fire in the one hand, and a fire in flank from the enemy on the left, wheeling the brigade to the left, after it had got out of Barksdale's way, and moving against Sedgwick. No troops to my assistance but the ones stated, and Walker's and Ransom's brigade met the enemy pursuing Hood's division.

General Jackson is made to say in the report: "At the close of the day my troops held the ground which they had occupied in the morning." This is an entire mistake. In the morning General Jackson had three brigades, Lawton's, Trimble's and Hays' on the east of the pike occupying the position Hood had held at the close oft he 16th, connecting D. H. Hill's left. At the close of the day he did not have a man on the east side of the pike. My brigade and 100 men of Lawton's which were brought in the evening after the battle was over constituted all the men he had in the line on the left, and they were on the west side of the road in the edge of the of the woods parallel to the pike, and facing it with skirmishers thrown up to the road. The remnants of Hays' and Trimble's brigades did not come up till next day, the enemy occupied all the east side of the road on this part of the line and the ground held there in the morning by General Jackson's troops.

It is true my left extended beyond where the left had rested in the morning, but the direction of the line was changed. I held the extreme left with Barksdale's brigade on my right, and two brigades of McLaw's division and Armistead on a line thrown back from about my center to the rear as show by diagram 1.[7] What of General Jackson's own division had been rallied was (after the fighting) supporting Stuart's guns near the Potomac. The two diagrams will explain the movements of my own brigade before and during the fight in which it was engaged.

I don't think General Jackson could have examined the report furnished by Faulkner. I know that the latter wrote it for I saw him at it, and he asked some explanation bout the battle of me, stating the most of the subordinate reports were very vague and unintelligible as they were. Lawton was absent and made no report. Starke commanding Jackson's division in the fight had been killed, and there was not one present in the battle to report the operations of that division.

General Jackson gave Faulkner the reports to draw up his from, and I don't think he (Faulkner) ever understood how the battle was really fought. He says in his certificate that the report was revised by General Jackson and was directed to be copied for his signature. He notices the fact of the omission of the usual notice of his staff. This is very strong evidence to my mind that General Jackson had not revised the report and directed it to be copied for his signature, for that was the time when he would have directed the notice to be inserted in order that it might all be compiled at the same time. Faulkner was very capable of committing a sort of pious froud [fraud] in order to complete the list [last?] of General Jackson's reports. I do not believe General Jackson would have sanctioned the statement that at the close of the 17th his troops held the same ground they did in the morning, nor do I believe he understood so little of the operations on the left as to have sanctioned the account given of my operations. I fully believe he never saw the report. However that may be, these are the errors in it which I have noticed, and they are not unimportant ones.

(Signed) J.A. Early
November 19, 1868."


[1] Jubal Early to Ezra Carman, November 19, 1868, Papers of Ezra Carman, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Container 16. Maps, Container 16.
[2] Charles James Faulkner, a Representative from Virginia and from West Virginia; born in Martinsburg, Va. (now West Virginia), July 6, 1806; was graduated from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., in 1822; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1829 and practiced; member of the Virginia house of delegates 1829-1834, 1848, and 1849; commissioner of Virginia on the disputed boundaries between that State and Maryland; member of the State senate from 1838 to 1842, when he resigned; member of the State constitutional convention in 1850; elected from Virginia as a Whig to the Thirty-second Congress and as a Democrat to the Thirty-third, Thirty-fourth, and Thirty-fifth Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1859); chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Thirty-fifth Congress); appointed United States Minister to France by President Buchanan in 1859; returned to the United States in August 1861 and was detained as a prisoner of state on charges of negotiating arms sales for the Confederacy while in Paris; released in December 1861 and negotiated his own exchange for Alfred Ely, a Congressman from New York who had been taken prisoner by the Confederates at Bull Run; during the Civil War entered the Confederate Army and was assistant adjutant general on the staff of Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson; engaged in railroad enterprises; member of the State constitutional convention of West Virginia in 1872; elected as a Democrat from West Virginia to the Forty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1875-March 3, 1877); resumed the practice of law; died on the family estate, “Boydville,” near Martinsburg, W.Va., November 1, 1884; interment in the family lot on the estate. Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress at 
[3] Joseph Graham Morrison (1842-1906) served as aide-de-camp to his brother in law, Thomas J. Jackson. See further, entry for Morrison in Brian Downey's Antietam on the Web.
[4] Italics are in the original.  The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, edited by Frank Moore, Vol. 9. (New York, D. Van Nostrand, 1866), p 575.
[5] Joseph L. Harsh, Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999), p . 570, note 31.
[6] Early spells Grigsby as Griggsby.  
[7] See illustrations in this post.